Spamtraps are not the problem

Often clients come to me looking for help “removing spamtraps from their list.” They approach me because they’ve found my blog posts, or because they’ve been recommended by their ISP or ESP or because they found my name on Spamhaus’ website. Generally, their first question is: can you tell us the spamtrap addresses on our lists so we can remove them?

My answer is always the same. I cannot provide a list of spamtrap addresses or tell you what addresses to remove. Instead what I do is help clients work through their email address lists to identify addresses that do not and will not respond to offers. I also will help them identify how those bad addresses were added to the list in the first place.

Spamtraps on a list are not the problem, they’re simply a symptom of the underlying data hygiene problems. Spamtraps are a sign that somehow addresses are getting onto a list without the permission of the address owner. Removing the spamtrap addresses without addressing the underlying flaws in data handling may mean resolving immediate delivery issues, but won’t prevent future problems.

Improving data hygiene, particularly for senders who are having blocking problems due to spam traps, fixes a lot of the delivery issues. Sure, cleaning out the traps removes the immediate blocking issue, but it does nothing to address any other addresses on the list that were added without permission. In fact, many of my clients have discovered an overall improvement in delivery after addressing the underlying issues resulting in spamtraps on their lists.

Focusing on removing spamtraps, rather than looking at improving the overall integrity of data, misses the signal that spamtraps are sending.

1 comment

  1. Huey says

    I think this connects to your earlier post Data Cleansing Part 2 in that spamtraps are not the problem, and listwashing is not the solution.

    I mean, sure: you shouldn’t send mail to people who have clearly indicated they don’t want it, but the reverse is not also true. Just because someone HASN’T complained doesn’t mean that they DO want your mail, the obvious example being spamtraps. Those don’t complain, pretty much by definition. And sure, It is sometimes possible to figure out where a lot of spamtraps are. Occasionally it’s downright trivial to do so.

    But even if you manage it, that still leaves the important question: how’d they get on your list in the first place? Why are you sending bulk mail without permission, something most of the world acknowledges is spam, and that’s a bad thing?


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